Neptune blesses our waters with an amazing variety of seafood, but the god has withheld one of my favorites.
Supposedly there are no octopus anywhere within at least hundreds of miles of our own fishers, although I see links on line that suggest otherwise, so maybe it’s just that a demand isn’t perceived here. In any event, no locals show up in the markets, so whenever the fancy strikes, I have to go all the way to Spain, at least figuratively, to bring baby octopus to the table, the only bad part being the carbon compounds consumed in the process.
I understand that today “Spanish octopus” [for that matter, also that enjoyed in Portugal] may now come “from Africa”, which probably means waters off the coast of the former Spanish Sahara (today Morocco), or possibly the Canary Islands (Spain, to be sure). Unfortunately I didn’t ask the fish monger at Lobster Place about the origin of those we enjoyed on Tuesday (I’m confident they have a record), but I hope to remember to do so the next time.
So I know little more about these particular Cephalopods than the fact they were incredibly delicious. I suspect some of the credit should go to the fact that this time I had an especially high flame below the large ribbed grill pan (the charred sections in the picture are witness to that).
- four Spanish baby octopus, a total of 17 ounces (I believe they had been previously frozen) from our neighborhood seafood shop, Lobster Place, in Chelsea Market, marinated in and later outside of the refrigerator for about 2 hours altogether (although even a much shorter period also really works) in a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil; one teaspoon of dried Italian oregano from the Madonie Mountains in Sicily; the zest and juice of half of an organic Whole Foods lemon; 1/4 teaspoon of crushed peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia; 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt; and one finely-chopped medium clove of ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm, chopped thinly, the octopus, now at room temperature, removed from the mix, drained a bit and grilled, the mouth, or beak side first, over a very high flame on top of a seasoned double-burner cast iron grill pan for 10 or 12 minutes, served with a squeeze of juice from the zested lemon and some olive oil, and garnished with micro arugula from Norwich Meadows Farm
- eleven ounces of la Ratte potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled, along with a generous amount of salt, drained, dried in the pan, halved, rolled in a little olive oil, seasoned with a local sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly ground pepper, rolled in some chopped small celery stems and tossed with chopped celery leaves
- more than a handful of small, very sweet, and as it turned out, very juicy red peppers from Eckerton Hill Farm [let me add that I’d at first feared these peppers might be gone, since they’d been in an open brown paper bag inside the crisper for a little over 2 weeks, but they were spectacular], halved lengthwise, pith and seeds removed, sautéed over a medium to high flame until slightly carbonized inside a large antique copper pot in a little olive oil in which several quite small chopped baby French leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm had been heated until softened, seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed with chopped thyme from Quarton Farm
- the wine was an excellent Portuguese (Vinho Verde/Lima) white, Vinho Verde Loureiro, Aphros 2018, from Astor Wines
- the music was Schubert’s Symphonies No. 2 and No. 5, Philippe Herreweghe conducting the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, after which we lingered with Domenico Scarlatti’s gorgeous keyboard sonatas, in wonderful performances by Joanna MacGregor